October 25, 2014
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LETTERS
Who’s to blame for job loss?

To the Editor:

I read with interest the Beacon’s coverage of the recent fast food workers “one day strike.” The strike the first week of December was extensively covered by the Beacon with stories and commentary. There was special focus on the Wendy’s workers strike in Warwick. There, workers marched on the restaurant and demanded a “ living wage” of $15 an hour, to the chagrin of restaurant owners who promptly locked the doors.

While it is true that a corporation as wealthy as Wendy’s could afford to pay its line workers a dollar more an hour (and they should!), there is a much bigger question here. Why are adults of all ages working a job that is essentially made for teenagers? A fairly large percentage of the people who work at these fast food restaurants have high school diplomas, college degrees, training at technical schools, even advanced college degrees! Certainly these are not the requirements for such a low skill job as fast food work. 

Could the answer to this question be the loud sucking sound we have heard over our heads for the last 30 years? That large sucking sound is all the jobs in this country being sucked out of here to other parts of the world. Fifty years ago, these same adults who work at Wendy’s now would have been able to walk off the street and get a living wage job at all the factories and associated industrial firms that used to dot our landscape.  

I do not blame the corporate executives for this. Their job is to make products and deliver services the cheapest way possible. Nor do I blame Wall Street; they just supply the capital when an efficient corporation needs it. I blame our politicians over the last few decades that enabled all of this to happen. From Reagan to Obama, it has been the same mantra: Give corporations the freedom to run their business the way they see fit, even if it means shipping jobs overseas. We see the results of this strategy today. Trillions of dollars in debt, and adults working for the wages a kid used to make.                                                      

Kevin Vealey

Warwick


Comments
4 comments on this item

Kevin,

First, your conclusions are highly skewed because you live in RI, a high tax state that is hostile to business where the unemployment rate is 9%. Drive 80 miles to the north and you'll find New Hampshire, a low tax state which is business friendly and the unemployment rate is currently 5.1%.

Second, "...a large percentage" of employees at Wendy's have neither college nor advanced degrees. The national unemployment rate for folks with college degrees is currently 4.5% vs. 8.3% for those with high school diplomas, and 12.4% for those with less than high school diplomas. Hence, we are at nearly full employment for well educated people. And on average, those with a college degree are making about $56k/yr vs. $33k/yr for those with a high school diploma. You want a "living wage"? Get a degree.

The folks protesting at Wendy's are largely part time workers and are likely there temporarily. If they are permanent, they are likely low skilled and/or poorly educated. The unfortunate truth is that there are plenty of jobs out there. The problem is that they often require advanced levels of education. And as long as RI remains the state with the second lowest median adult level of education in the northeast, nothing is likely to change. But by all means continue to elect the same buffoons. Yeah, that should work!

ps: NH also has a higher median level of adult education and, Voila!, a higher median income

JohnStark....spot on! I would add that there is no such thing as a 'livible wage'. If the minimum is raised to 15.00 than everyone already earning 15.00 will have to be adjusted upward. This would make 15.00 the new minimum wage. Products would have to rise to cover the expense of raising the bottom to 15.00, making the gain to the workers negligible. But as long as they feel better......

I would have to counter your argument "john stark" , if we want a living wage... bring our jobs back here to america! That is the only way we are going to get a fairly high wage for adult workers. Not everyone is capable of a highly skilled, highly educated job. But every adult is qualified for some type of manufacturing job, I know of more than one oerson who has college degree and was forced to work at mc donalds - for more than a year!

Sorry, Conspiracy, not buying it. Do these supposed multitudes with college degrees working at McDonald's have degrees in Communications, Sociology, and French Literature? Or are those degrees in Physics, Chemistry, and Software Engineering? What would be your guess? Next time I order the #5 Meal, I'll ask the 'highly educated' kid with various pieces of metal protruding from his face about his field of study in college. And how far did he cast his geographic net looking for a job? Appanoug?

Beyond that, the entire notion of a "livable wage" is a straw man propped up by the far Left to suggest that a person who has less inherent economic value in the marketplace should have his value magically increased because, well, just because. The beauty of capitalism is that workers are paid precisely what they are worth in the marketplace. If the worker disagrees, he is entirely free (free!) to take his skills and expertise to an employer who will more appropriately compensate him for those skills. But even if those software jobs come back from India (where the population is well-educated and they don't major in Sociology), they're still not going to our metal-faced friend at McDonald's.

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